The history of Mayfield really began in October 1818, when two agents of the federal government, General Andrew Jackson and former Kentucky Governor Isaac Shelby, bought for $300,000 the claim of the Chickasaw Indians to land west of the Tennessee River - the "Jackson Purchase". The very next year a pioneer couple, John and Nancy Anderson, arrived in the vicinity of the former General Tire plant, after a three-day trek from the Tennessee. Here he built his cabin and cleared land. Here also was born the first white child in the county, Ervin Anderson, in 1821.
From the purchase area eventually came eight counties, Graves being the third in 1823. The General Assembly that year created the new county's government and made Mayfield it's "seat of justice". Meanwhile, Anderson had moved from his first residence to the tiny settlement named for a nearby creek. This stream memorialized a Virginia militiaman, George Mayfield who had drowned in its current as he soldiered at Fort Jefferson in 1780. Other explanations concerning the origin of the name seem less authentic.
After the Andersons came to Mayfiled, and built the first house here on North Fifth Street (between North and Ann Streets), John opened the first store and deeded the county the courthouse tract. Soon, a one-room log building was completed at a cost of $139, from which Anderson did business as the first county clerk. In 1832, he was a founder of the first church in town, the Presbyterian. The following year, Graves' second courthouse was erected - a two story brick building on the same site. John and Nancy Anderson probably sent Ervin to the town's first school, which had been instituted by William McDonald in 1828 on the present location of the First Baptist Ministries building, which until 1999, was the JC Penney building.
By the close of the 1820's Mayfield's population numbered 44 persons. Besides the "public buildings" - courthoue and jail - several log houses had appeared plus William Edwards' tavern, a store or two and McDonald's subscription school. The town's original plat (1824) carried today's names for a few streets: North, South, Water and Walnut. However, today's 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th streets had early names of East, Main, Prairie, West an dCherry streets, respectively. They were all 66 feet in width. As more settlers arrived, a voting precinct was created in time for the Presidential election in 1824, in which Graves' voters favored Democrat Andrew Jackson by a 23-16 majority. Kentucky's last frontier had become a fairly well settled region by the 1830's. The Federal Census taken in that year (1830) revealed a countywide population of 2,504 white persons and 279 slaves.
The growth of Mayfield during the thirty years preceding the Civil War was steady. Its major economic activity centered upon agriculture, especially the cultivation and sale of tobacco - although the important textile industry started here in 1860 with the establishment of the Woolen Mills, forerunner of latter-day Curlee Clothing Company. A major advancement occurred in 1858, when the first locomotive lumbered into Mayfield from Paducah. This railroad, begun almost four years earlier, was the New Orleans and ohio and its arrival on July 3 triggered a celebration that overshadowed the town's Independence Day festivities. The tracks followed almost the exact route, as did the much later Illinois Central Gulf.
A brief description of Mayfield in 1859, as given in Hawes Business Directory presented an optimistic profile of the town on the eve of the Civil War: "Mayfield - a thriving post village and capital of Graves County . . . the village contains the public buildings of the county, one Methodist and one new Missionary Baptist Church, one select school . . .one Masonic Lodge and one Royal Arch Chapter; one steam flouring and saw mill, one cording machine and one baker, one confectioner and two hotels, eight general stores and family groceries . . . one tobacco manufactory and two large tobacco stemmaries, one toy manufactory, one brickyard and one silversmith, one shingle maker, four masons and builders, one surveyor, about 25 mechanical trades and a large number of resident planters. Population is 700." But the decades of progress soon gave way to years of destruction. Witht he coming of the Civil War in 1861, most local residents' sympathy lay with the South, and many rushed to enlist in the Confederate service, although Kentucky did not secede. A young visitor from Feliciana wrote home from Mayfield that "a secession flag was raised yesterday in the city of Mayfield". That observation from Laura Lochridge came on April 18, 1861, less than a week after the war's beginning. Within another month, a district-wide convention met at the local courthouse to urge secession from the Union and the state. No battles were fought here, but Mayfield was the target of numerous raiding and reconnaissance expeditions from both armies on occasion. In mid-1864 severe military policies of Union General EA Paine (a "reign of terror" according to state investigators of Paine's command) caused great suffering among citizens throughout western Kentucky. During this time, the courhoue was occupied by Paine's Union troops and heavily damaged - so much so that a claim was filed in 1908 by the county against the federal government to collect damage payments. This effort was just partially successful, as only 10% of the full amount sought was awarded.
With wars end came re-building and renewal. The final quarter of the century witnessed improved structures, strees and roads. A second textile mill, the Mayfield Pants Company (later the Merit Clothing Company) was started in 1899, the same year that saw the beginning of the Exchange Bank. The First National Bank had been doing business since 1875. In 1891, the tobacco-based economy was somewhat supplemented by the discovery of ball clay, which gave rise to such profitable ceramic enterprieses as Kentucky-Tennessee and Old Hickory Clay companies. The first newspaper in the county had appeared in July 1860; its name, The Southern yeoman, suggested its advocacy of the Southern cause in the approaching conflict. Its editor was CC Coulter, and it became a casualty of the war. In the post-war period, local subscribers chose either the Monitor or the Democrat (both weekly publications) to learn about local happenings. In addition, there were several short-lived newspapers that covered events between 1870 and 1900.
The 1880 decade brought a fourth courthouse (the present building) to replce one that had burned in 1887, as well as a new and highly accredited educational institution, the West Kentucky College. It was opened in 1886 on the campus of the present Mayfield Middle School. This Christian Church related boarding school operated until 1908, when its property was purchased by the Mayfield Board of Education to become the new campus of Mayfield High School. Previously, high school classes had met on Walnut Street. Mayfield High School's present campus on Douthitt Street was occupied in 1973.
Mayfield enjoyed technological progress in the 1890's when the first water and light company began service - water pumping started in 1892 and electrical service the next year. It was not until 1915, however, that the downtown "whiteway" of seventy light posts on Broadway and around the square was finished. Like the arrival of the first train, this burst of illumination brought forth a mass community celebration. A major improvement in communications came in 1895 with the installation of the county's first telephone service. Heading the city government at this time was the first mayor elected, CJ Whittemore, who had won that office in 1894.
Along with educational and economic progress, Mayfield experienced church growth during the first sixty years. In addition to the town's first church body, the Presbyterian 91832), the Methodist South (1843), the Missionary Baptist (1844) and the Christian (1853) played influential community roles during ante-bellum years. Churches serving black congregations in town - St. James AME (1868); Fairview Baptist (1871) and Smith Temple Presbyterian (1891) were also functioning in 1900.
With a population of over 4,000 persons in 1900, Mayfield was becoming more urbanized and industrialized. New residental neighborhoods were developed, more business firms appeared downtown, and early automobiles (such as Rio's) sputtered down newly paved streets. Both professional and scholastic athletics - particularly baseball (Class "D" Kitty League Competition) and football (MHS "Wonder Teams" of the 1920's) intensely interested many Mayfieldians. Continued growth of textile industries - Merit, Curlee and later, Andover - gave employment to many and helped make Mayfield a "depression-proof" town, according to some Federal officials in the 1930's. The establishment of the Pet Milk Condensary in the late 1920's stimulated the dairy industry. In 1960, the giant General Tire Company began operations north of Mayfield, near pioneer John Anderson's cabin. Ten years later, another important industry arrived - the Ingersoll-Rand firm, and air compressor manufacturer. While factories and churches hav emet economic and spiritual needs of local residents, excellent hospital facilities have done likewise for their physical problems, the Mayfield Hospital, opened in 1921, on North Sixth Street, was the town's first hospital. It was followed in 1928 by the Fuller-Gilliam Hosptial one block west on North Seventh Street. In the 1950-51 period, a third hospital, the Fuller-Morgan Hospital opened on South Seventh and Water Streets. It was purchased in 1969, and became the Community Hospital, which it was to remain until 1993, when a new facility was constructed on the northwest side of the city just off Highway 121 North. The new hospital was named Pine Lake Medical Center and then in 1999, it became the Jackson Purchase Medical Center.
It should be noted that hundreds of young men and women of this community have become members of the Armed Forces and have served their country well. Many failed to return but the veterans have been remembered in various memorials in the city.
Mayfield In the News
October 19, 2012 “Small Cities…Big Ideas!” was the theme of the 2012 Conference and Expo presented by the Kentucky League of Cities last week in Lexington. Mayor Teresa Cantrell attended the meetings, along with Councilmembers Jana Adams, Nick Summers, Johnny Jackson, and Wayne Potts.
KLC works hard each year to provide practical information, inspiring speakers and networking opportunities to support innovative leadership and quality governance. This year was no exception, as the conference attendees were offered workshops on new Alcohol and Beverage Control Laws, audits, bidder preference/procurement, budgets, changes to code enforcement laws, customer service/office protocol, employee handbooks, ethics, generational differences in the workplace, grants and funding options, HR and personnel laws, legislative updates, parks and building a legacy park, motivating employees, retirement issues, social media laws and more.
“I always come back excited and motivated and with a bagful of new ideas that are working for other cities,” commented Mayor Teresa Cantrell. “The opportunity to sit down and talk with others who have the exactly same issues as we have helps me to get a new perspective on the job of mayor.” This year’s focus on small cities was particularly of interest to the local group of leaders attending on behalf of the City of Mayfield. They were a part of over 600 attendees at this year’s convention and expo.
October 19, 2012The City of Mayfield received news today that they are the recipients of a $15,000 Homeland Security Grant. Kentucky's allocation from the United States Department of Homeland Security was reduced by yet again another 50% from last year's award. As a result, the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security was able to award only $2.2 million dollars from approximately $11.8 million in statewide application requests. The City of Mayfield applied for the grant earlier in the year in order to provide face masks and mask leak/fit tester for the members of the Mayfield Fire Department. "We appreciate so much the work of our firefighters, and their safety needs are important. The receipt of this money will allow us to provide an even safer work environment for our employees," commented Mayor Teresa Cantrell. The City of Mayfield congratulates its Safety Officer/Assistant Fire Chief Steve Legate on another successful grant application process.
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